Q:

I am a stay-at-home mom who is anxious to help my toddlers get a head start on learning. What is my best approach? -- Off to a Good Start

A:

One of the best ways to start toddlers on the path to being a learning star is by talking to them. This is true whether you are with them all day long or have more limited time because you are a working parent.

It is sad, but true, that young children from poorer homes usually hear far fewer words than those from well-to-do homes. The difference in the number of words that are heard in an hour is absolutely enormous -- more than 1,000. It is believed that this greatly affects the variance in IQ between economic groups. So talk, talk, talk to your children, and whatever your income level is will not be a factor in their being smart students. Incidentally, this does not mean hearing words on television; this simply doesn't help children.

Beyond just talking to children, introduce them to the world and talk about it. Get out of your home. Go to stores, restaurants, parks, museums and libraries -- anywhere they can have new experiences. Let them see rivers, lakes, the ocean, bugs and birds, planes, trains and buses. Have them experience elevators and escalators, and look at the day and night sky. Take them on walks and car rides. Introduce them to all your relatives. Each new experience will widen their horizons. The more they learn about the world, the more they will understand when they begin reading about it in books.